Cool nights are encroaching, friends. Long-forgotten sweaters are coming out of the closet. It’s time to oil up a sheet pan and start roasting vegetables. What’s that you say? You’re drowning in tomatoes? You can’t eat them fast enough? You’re losing sleep over finding a worthy home for them all? Well, rest easy. You just found a noble purpose for a whole mess of them: Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup. Things are looking up.
When it comes to soup, tomatoes like to brashly elbow other flavors out of the spotlight. I’m duly impressed by all their ruby-red brightness. But it doesn’t hurt to enhance them with a few back-up singers: a subtle hint of spice, and the earthy caramelized goodness that comes with roasted peppers and shallots. The tomato still gets a starring role, it’s just forced to harmonize. The complex flavors in this soup jostle and nudge each other for position, but no one outshines the others. They’re stuck with complimenting each other to perfection.
The shallots, garlic and red pepper are roasted with nothing more than olive oil and sea salt. Some things in life can’t be improved upon. The tomatoes are roasted with a sprinkling of coriander, because together they smell like flowers in summer. But the crowning glory of this soup, the element that brings all the others together, is a smidge of hot smoked paprika. Suddenly the soup goes from being better-than-average to being alluring, deep, and smoky.
Tomato soup is comforting. Especially with a crisp and gooey grilled cheese sandwich. But this one is more than soothing. It’s downright intriguing. Can’t you hear that mountain of tomatoes calling your name? I’m thinking they need some intrigue in their lives. Who doesn’t?
This is really more of an outline than a recipe. You could include more or less of any ingredient. Substitute or add stuff. There are no rules here. Just roast the vegetables. Throw in some spices that move you. Blend and add water. Then pat yourself on the back for making something so downright delicious with so little effort. And don’t forget the dollop of sour cream. It’s a player.
ROASTED TOMATO AND RED PEPPER SOUP
makes four large or six small servings
3 pounds smallish tomatoes, halved (Romas would work well.)
½ teaspoon ground coriander
4 small cloves of garlic, peel left on
3 medium shallots, trimmed, peeled, bulbs halved
1 small red pepper, quartered, stemmed, and seeded (see note)
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 375 degrees, with the two racks placed as close to the middle as possible.
Line two rimmed sheet pans with foil, and spray foil with cooking spray. (This step is not necessary. It just makes for easier clean-up.) You’ll need a big sheet for the tomatoes. A smaller pan will work for the rest of the vegetables.
On a large rimmed sheet pan, place the tomato halves, cut side up, in one layer. Sprinkle with salt and coriander.
In a medium bowl, toss garlic cloves, shallots, and red pepper with olive oil and a half teaspoon kosher salt. Spread them in one layer on the other pan. Place the pepper pieces skin-side down.
Roast vegetables until they are browning nicely. The time will depend on their size.
- My garlic cloves were done in about 20 minutes. Give the rest of the vegetables a stir when you pull out that pan to get the garlic. Remove the garlic cloves from their skins. (The skins come right off.)
- My peppers and shallots were done in about 30 minutes. The pepper skins will get very dark, even black in spots. That’s okay.
- My tomatoes took about an hour, but it will depend on the size and moisture content of your tomatoes. Take them out when they are starting to brown on the edges.
Place all the vegetables into a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. Place the puree in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add enough water to acheive desired thickness. (I used two cups.) Warm through.
Add smoked paprika, and salt and pepper to taste. Don’t be shy with the salt.
Top with a dollop of sour cream.
NOTE: The pepper I used was an impulse buy at the farmer’s market. It’s called a Beaver Dam pepper, and it’s delicious. It’s smaller than your average bell pepper. The one pictured here is about five inches long, and skinny (as you can see). I used just one for the soup. Beaver Dam peppers are sweet, but they pack a little heat. If you don’t have heirloom pepper varieties at your fingertips, don’t fret. You can get a similar effect by roasting a small sweet red pepper with an anaheim pepper (or a jalapeno if you’re the spicy type). Remove the stems, veins, and seeds from whatever peppers you choose.